3 Ways Travel Nurses Can Grow Their Skill Set Without Changing Their Specialty


As a travel nurse, you come into each new assignment with the ability to hit the ground running with minimal (if any) training. You’re helping a facility while they’re in a pinch. For these reasons (and a long list of others), all travel nurses are a valued asset at any given hospital. But how can you get a competitive edge as a traveler without going back on staff at a hospital to gain more experience?

While facilities’ hourly rates within the same specialty for travel nurses do not change based on experience, travelers can vie for the high demand jobs (think: premium pay rate and awesome locations) by growing their skill set within their current specialty. Here are three ways you can make yourself stand out:

1.     Work your way up the hospital ladder

The great thing about being a traveler is that you get the chance to work in settings you otherwise might not experience as a staff nurse. You can work your way up to larger and more prominent hospitals – for example:

For your first few travel assignments, you may start out at a Level III trauma center in a rural area. From there, a Level II trauma center in a larger city might make you an offer based on your past performance at slightly smaller hospitals. Before you know it, you could be working at a prestigious, award-winning teaching hospital with Trauma I accreditation– and with experience like that, you could land you a job almost anywhere either as a traveler or on staff.

Use your experience at each level hospital to tell a story – you must be able to explain why you are a valuable asset, and that you have what it takes to work in a highly sought after facility. Set a goal, and let your eagerness to advance out of its cage!

2.     Grow your clinical and administrative skills

As a traveler, you have the unique opportunity to acquire unique skills. Being exposed to a variety of different facilities across the U.S. can translate into the opportunity to gain both administrative and clinical skill you wouldn’t otherwise get as a staff nurse. Although you cannot advance to a higher specialty without staff experience in that area, you can increase your value as a nurse. With each assignment you will deal with new doctors, new clinical techniques, new computer systems and more. This type of experience gives you a competitive edge as a traveler and as a staff nurse when/if you decide to return.

3.     Maximize every opportunity to learn

The nurses who land the most desired travel assignments have one thing in common: they learn from any situation they can. This is not limited to just clinical skills, but bedside manner, administrative tasks and interaction with your fellow healthcare practitioners are all things you can continue to sharpen as you develop your career path. Being open minded to learn makes you more adaptable to different facilities (they all have their own way of doing things), and will ultimately help you become a better nurse. If only we all had it figured out! In the meantime, learn from everything.

Let what really matters be your guide

Facilities seeking a travel nurse will hire you because you are seasoned, comfortable and confident. They do not have to train you, but you can still pick up a few things along the way that will help you advance in the long-run (i.e., land your dream location/pay rate).

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about nurses, it’s that they aren’t just doing a job, but answering a calling – that’s what makes it so special. Job satisfaction often plays the leading role in choosing a travel assignment, not the location or the pay rate or the prestige. Let that be your guide as you answer your own calling as a travel nurse seeking to make a difference!